My favorite part of being a Family Pastor at Community Bible Church is when parents trust me enough on their journey to becoming the primary-discipleship maker in the life of their children, to ask for my advice. It is something I always take seriously and never want to be flippant about the wisdom that I give them – I pray it is wisdom a majority of the time. I want to point them to Jesus, the good news of the gospel, how to apply that good news, and the Bible.
There are times that I get questions that my answer actually surprises parents. Sometimes Biblical wisdom goes against the natural reaction to protect our children that all parents have. Which is why I say that we have to be careful not to save our children from things that Jesus doesn’t save them from.
Here are 3 areas that I see parents try to save their children:
It is back to school time and we all know what that means. School drama. Rejection of some sort. We have all felt the sting of rejection, some more than others. We remember what it was like to get picked last on the team, or wear the wrong brand of shoes, or simply not fit it. We have all probably been laughed at by someone we thought was our friend. Truth is that we all know the sting of rejection. And when our kids come home from school with that sting of rejection causing a spiritual anaphylactic shock, we too often reach for our emotional epi-pens to try to calm and protect the hearts of our children. Maybe we try to build our kids up in telling them how great we think they are and how lame we think the other kids are for making fun of them. But protecting our children from rejection won’t help them. As Christians we know we will face rejection. It is promised to us; even more so as the days get darker. So instead of trying to put a self-esteem bubble around our children, we need to help them learn how to walk through rejection with confidence in the Lord and confidence of his presence. The good news of the gospel assures us of God’s presence in the midst of rejection and that he sees us.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” John 15:18
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Romans 5:3
Another area that I see parents trying to protect their children from is by minimizing their children’s sin. This is how I typically hear or see a parent describe it to me:
Parent of a 5-year-old: “My son/daughter has a real hard time when we call them out for something that they have done. They usually get really sad and sullen and start crying out that they are “So bad. I am so bad, mommy.”
Me: “How do you respond?”
Parent: “I try to comfort my child that what they did was wrong, but it wasn’t that bad and they don’t need to be crushed by it.”
This is where I usually try to tip-toe into a massive truth that we all need to grasp, and it is this:
We are all worse/more bad/more sinful than we realize.
Now, a child could be communicating this for a couple of reasons. One is that they actually feel bad about what they’ve done, and they are expressing it. Or they are trying to manipulate the situation. They are trying to get you, the parent, to focus more on consoling them and less about their offense.
The truth is this: your children are worse than you think. They are worse than they think. So when they are expressing their “badness”, don’t try to make them feel better by minimizing their offense or by protecting them from feeling guilt or shame. Instead, agree with them about their sin, without any tone of rebuke, and then introduce them once again to the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus, of course, saves our children from their own sin. That is the beauty of the gospel, but he doesn’t save them from understanding their need for the gospel. He doesn’t shy away from showing us our need for Him comes out of our own rebellion to the Father. We are all bad. They are actually expressing a biblical truth, one that is fundamental to the gospel.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – everyone- to his own way” Isaiah 53:6
“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquity, O Lord who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” Psalm 130:3-4
“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans5:8
Every so often, maybe at the death of a loved one or even the death of a family pet, children may begin to ask about death. “What does it mean that we die?” “What happened to grandpa?” “Will I die?”
For so much of their life, children live with an invincible view of themselves and the world. They don’t think about death because it doesn’t enter their mind. Their life is often too busy or, frankly, self-absorbed to think about death.
At some point, though, children might begin to ask about death and too often parents don’t want their children to worry or be anxious. So, parents will tell them “Don’t worry about that. You have a long time until you have to worry about death. Grandpa was old and lived a good life. It was his time.”
But in reality, it is not until our children begin to think deeply about the consequence of being mortal that they can begin to understand the deeper scope of the good news. Death makes the gospel more real, even to a child. And besides, none of us can promise our children a long life. That’s not in our power to promise.
Instead, we can give our children a taste of an ever-expanding view of the beauty of the gospel.
“Daddy, will I die?”
“Yes, son. You will. I don’t know when. But it will happen. Does that make you afraid?”
“It makes me afraid sometimes too. But that is why I have to remind myself of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. And that he tells me that I will have an everlasting life with him. That if I have faith in Him that nothing can separate me from him. Not even death.”
“Even though I walk though the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” Psalm 23:4
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, not things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
To summarize all of these examples in one statement: Try not to protect your children from things the Bible asks you to help them walk through, not around. And the way we walk through it with our children is by showing them how the good news applies in all areas of our life, even rejection, sin, and death.